I had grand plans for the months of May and June.
They’d be my last two full months before my maternity leave this summer, be”H, and on the heels of making Pesach for the first time; I had quite the list of aaaaaall the things I was going to create and offer for all of you during these short months.
I talked things out with a couple business acquaintances, made a plan of action of what would be when, and, super excited, started planning.
And then real life hit.
A couple unexpected delays and glitches from some people I was hoping to collaborate with, a flood of emails in my inbox that needed to be addressed, more clients than I was expecting to take on between Purim and Pesach.
And then, on Isru Chag, I moved.
And, of course, we hit some glitches in the move, too, stretching out the settling-in phase of our move to far longer than I was expecting.
My kids were overwhelmed, acting out and waking up a bit earlier than usual. We didn’t have normal food because my kitchen wasn’t fully functioning. I had a late night every night, and was scrambling to squeeze in time to work to do all the things I’d planned to do.
I was well on my way to burnout.
But ironically, as tough as the situation seemed, the solution was so so simple.
Once my head was screwed on straight, it didn’t take much rocket science to realize that I was expecting way too much of myself.
I was sleep deprived, nutrient deprived and out of my comfort zone. The house was cluttered, making my thinking cluttered, and I was overwhelmed just from the thought of getting through the day.
My kids needed my love and attention, but I was so bombed and needed to be giving myself some love and attention before I could even be half the mother they needed to get through it.
I was getting frustrated easily, putting them to bed early every night because I couldn’t handle the kvetching and tantrums and couldn’t even think straight.
So pushing myself through to check things off of my to-do list just wasn’t going to cut it.
In order to reverse the burnout, I needed to repair the things that were missing: get some R&R, some sleep, set up my kitchen so I could get real food in my system (and into my kids, too!), finish cleaning up so I could think straight and give my kids the TLC they needed so they wouldn’t have to act out for the attention.
Stop, Drop and Roll for Recovery
As with any fire, the solution to burnout is simple: stop, drop and roll.
So first: Stop. Stop doing all those things that aren’t actually musts. Much as I would have loved to do all my grand plans, as important as it is to get that information out to the world, help other mothers, do all the things, I wasn’t going to be helpful to anyone if I was pushed past my limits.
So I stopped. I stopped doing anything that wasn’t actually urgently important for me and my family in the moment. I stopped trying to do all the things and instead focused on what actually needed to happen.
And then Drop. Drop the “should”s, drop the internal expectations, drop the extras.
Lots of things fell off of my to-do list in this phase. I slashed a couple of my grand plans, delayed some tasks to the following week, some plans to later this month, and some to after my mat leave.
I dropped some expectations of myself, and let myself take things easy. I gave myself some down time, pulled Shabbos from the freezer and accepted a meal invitation out.
And last: Roll with the punches. I allowed myself to take things as they came.
When my kids needed attention, I gave them attention instead of unpacking. It was rainy and chilly so we didn’t go to the park, but we did run some errands (which they love — “can we go to another store?”).
I spoke with clients, did what had to be done in my business, but didn’t push myself to send out a blog post (were you wondering why there was no email last week?).
And it was amazing how quick my recovery was. Within a day, I felt so much calmer and more relaxed. I was more present, happier and attentive. I was able to enjoy my children and, when my cleaning help bailed last minute on Erev Shabbos, it was OK.
When we take care of ourselves – whether proactively to prevent burnout, or in recovery mode – we can actually be the people we want to be.
What self-care really is (and isn’t)
Because that trendy catch-all term, self-care, isn’t about massages and jewelry and vacations to Paris.
Yes, those are nice, and perhaps they may be the right thing for you from time to time.
But self-care, at its foundation is a whole lot less fancy than that. Self-care, in its essence is: taking care of yourself.
And that means starting with the basics: physically, emotionally, spiritually.
It means getting the sleep you need, the food that will nourish your body, enough water and movement.
It means working on your mindset, not allowing false beliefs to run your life, and being aware of where your feelings and thoughts are coming from.
It means connecting to Hashem, being in touch with your neshamah, giving yourself the spiritual boosts you need to continue being the best you you can be.
So, as Mother’s Day approaches, find one place that you can make a positive change to take care of yourself. Don’t try to dive in and fix it all at once, but do as my 5th grade teacher said: Eat the elephant bite by bite.
What’s one small thing that you can change now to start taking better care of yourself? Let me know how it goes!